England have dropped their sevens captain Ben Gollings, who might have paid the price for the team's failure to win the HSBC Sevens World Series last season.
A shocked Gollings (pictured), the world's all-time leading points-scorer in sevens and a familiar face at the Hong Kong Sevens, said he would be stepping away from the game after he was ignored by the Rugby Football Union, which did not award him a new contract.
Gollings, who was in Hong Kong a fortnight ago to play for a World XV in the Chartis Cup, said he was disappointed by the decision and the fact that he would not be able to lead England at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
'It was a bit of a shock not to be given a new contract and it will take a few months to get my head around no longer being part of the England sevens squad,' Gollings said.
'I'm 31 and as fit as I've ever been so feel I have a few more years of rugby in me.
'I haven't yet decided what path to follow next. I'll have some time out and assess my options in England and also abroad.'
Gollings was part of three England teams who won the Cup championship at the Hong Kong Sevens - missing out on the 2003 triumph as he stayed away due to the birth of his son Rocco - and was expected to lead the side again in next season's Sevens World Series.
It is believed that England's failure to push on and win the last series - after having been neck-and-neck with New Zealand midway through the eight-leg series - played a role in the decision to go for new blood, and start afresh with an eye on the 2013 World Cup Sevens and the 2016 Olympics.
The RFU for the first time offered central contracts to sevens players last season and demanded results. The disappointment of finishing third in the standings behind champions New Zealand and runners-up South Africa could have cost Gollings his place.
England coach Ben Ryan admitted long-term goals had played a part in the decision not to award Gollings a new contract.
'These decisions are never taken lightly and while we understand Ben's disappointment we felt that it was one that needed to be made to move the squad and our game forward over the coming seasons,' Ryan said.
'It doesn't detract in any way from the terrific service Ben has given England over more than a decade at the highest level.'
But that will be small consolation to Gollings, who scored a record 2,652 points from 70 tournaments. He was 19 when he first played for England and is the only player to have taken part in all 11 World Series to date. Gollings also played in three Commonwealth Games and at two Rugby World Cup Sevens, reaching the final of the latter in 2005 in Hong Kong before losing to Fiji.
'It is a shame I won't be able to fulfil my ambition of cracking the 3,000-points barrier or becoming all-time top try scorer, but I've been fortunate to enjoy as much as I have,' Gollings said. 'Winning the 2006 Hong Kong Sevens is one of my favourite career memories.'